Photograph of young Black people holding protest signs that say Black Lives Matter, Justice Now, We Will Not Be Silent. Text in front says Abolishing Police is a Disability Justice Issue.

Dear Senators: We need more infrastructure funding, not police.

Late into the night on August 10, many Senators were working to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The bill aims to support disabled people in many different ways, including allocating resources to make public transport more accessible nationwide. But some Senate Republicans added amendment after amendment in an attempt to slow the process of the bill passing, or even halt it entirely. 

During this time, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) introduced a non-binding amendment that stipulated that any municipality that decides to “defund their police” would not receive federal funding. This amendment passed unanimously in a vote of 99-0. 

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) then went on to praise this amendment, calling it a “gift.” Though Booker’s overall point was that this piece of political posturing would not stop the infrastructure bill from passing, he ultimately trivialized the genuine struggles of racially marginalized people against policing and expressed his and his colleagues’ opposition to calls for police abolition.

We recognize the ongoing systemic violence faced by Black people in the form of policing. We acknowledge and encourage all non-Black community members to remember that ableism is an issue of white supremacy. As is commonly said, and originated with poet Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” 

Policing is a disability justice issue. The stories of young autistic, frequently Black, children and teenagers who have negative or outright violent interactions with the police are countless. While many police departments offer training, it has been shown to vary in quality and in some cases have no impact at all or even outright harm disabled people. Worse, much of this training is done by organizations like Autism Speaks that do not honor and elevate the experiences of disabled people. 

While it appears that Senator Booker saw this game as little more than political theater, the lives of disabled people and especially Black disabled people are not so trivial. Defunding the police is a crucial disability rights and disability justice issue, and it should not be trivialized for little more than partisan bickering. 

We as disabled people must continue to recognize our own needs and the needs of our Black community members, and we cannot allow life-threatening issues to be trivialized for political theater. Abolition work is not trivial, and has a long history that we must honor and continue. Honoring the work of leaders like Angela Davis and Mariame Kaba, and working in solidarity with organizations like Critical Resistance, HEARD, the Abolitionist Law Center, and the Abolition and Disability Justice Collective, we must all continue the fight whether it’s a popular one or not. 

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